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April 4, 2014

Psychology department hopes splitting stats course will improve student success rate

Big Switch

By John Cuturic

In the past year, almost every department in Cleveland State University has had to revise its curriculum from the ground up. In a series this semester, the Stater will look at some of the changes.

This issue, we talked to professors Kathleen McNamara and Mike Horvath from the Department of Psychology. McNamara is the chair of the department, and Horvath is the undergraduate program coordinator.

They said that by the time the Big Switch began, the Psychology department had already made large changes to its curriculum. These came into effect in fall 2013. McNamara said carrying out the fall 2013 revision laid a lot of the groundwork for the Big Switch.

“Most of what we did, we did a year early,” Horvath said. “Then during the transition, we adapted that to three credits.”

The biggest change that students will see from the fall ‘13 revision and the Big Switch is a change in the department’s statistics requirement—in the past, students were required to take PSY 311, Behavioral Science Statistics.

But PSY 311 was a challenging course for psychology majors, and students from many other departments also took it.

“It is one of the courses in psychology that has a higher student non-success rate than we like,” McNamara said. “It’s one of our more challenging courses for students.”

The department decided to divide PSY 311 into two different, three-credit courses—courses which will now be called PSY 217 and PSY 317. They hope that the new courses will increase the student success rate.

“We’re covering what we’ve tended to cover in the past in more depth,” Horvath said.

In the fall ’13 change, the psychology department also made some changes to their capstones—students will be able to take either PSY 412, a lab course that will give them hands-on experience, or PSY 415, which will familiarize students with psychological research.

Students will take more elective courses in the new model, but about the same number of credit hours. The undergraduate psychology major, which used to be 40 credit hours, will now be 42.

Horvath said that the department has some challenges—there are three different sets of requirements ‘in play.’ There’s the pre-fall ’13 catalog, the four-credit-hour fall ’13 catalog and the three-credit-hour catalog after the Big Switch. With a combination of four and three-credit courses, some students may wind up with odd numbers.

“If you have 38 hours as a result of the transition, we will waive [the remaining] two hours,” Horvath said.

Horvath said that when the Big Switch came around, there was a lot of work Cleveland State faculty had to do very quickly. But the psychology department had time to think it through, since they did a lot of the thinking before the fall ’13 revision.

“I don’t think the changes in psychology are anything other than carefully thought-through and planned,” McNamara said.

Note: The print version of this story contained an error. Due to a typo, "success" was misspelled as "sucess" in the headline.